After about a decade-long hiatus, Human Feel are back with a vengeance and arguably their best album yet. Members Chris Speed, Andrew d'Angelo, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Jim Black have not remained idle during that time and the experience they have garnered undoubtedly helped improve this communal project. They perform rhythmically and melodically varied material penned by each of the musicians as well as a piece by guitarist Hilmar Jensson, whose aesthetic fits the band like a glove. At first, what grabs the attention as well as provides the adrenaline rush are their sonic assaults. Saxophones roar and squeal over angular guitar riffs and thrashing drums.
Born in Chelyabinsk in 1973, Lera Auerbach defected from the former Soviet Union to the United States while still in her teens, and she has since garnered much attention as both pianist and composer, notably in her recent work with Gidon Kremer. Written in 1999, Auerbach's 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano amply showcase her stylistic leanings and wide emotional range. Clearly, she's imbibed from the Shostakovich/Schnittke watering hole, as we hear in the frequent sparse textures in extreme registers, petulant dynamic shifts, obsessive pedal points, and caustic, folk-oriented tunes. Auerbach also has figured out what makes Astor Piazzolla tick, and manages to personalize his sultry harmonic idiom. The most interesting moments occur when the composer's original voice pushes her influences out of the way, as in the sudden, unexpected violin cadenza that immediately follows Prelude No. 15's unrelenting dance. This leads to a threnody that gradually dematerializes into a high-register mist, and before you know it, Prelude No. 16 is over. The Postlude and solo violin piece also typify the ease with which Auerbach communicates her ideas. Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe push their collective virtuosity sky-high. Such big playing requires the larger-than-life engineering BIS provides.